“Silent Hill” (2006)

It is a well-known fact that video game to movie adaptations turn out bad. Look at Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, or pretty much any movie made by Uwe Boll, such as the recently released BloodRayne. Video games are the latest and greatest form of entertainment, perhaps because they add the interactive piece we have all been waiting for in movies. Maybe that is the reasons why no movie director can capture the essence of a video game on the Big Screen. Or maybe they just don’t love the games enough to fully capture it. Whatever it is, gamers everywhere were hoping that Silent Hill would deviate from this unfortunate fact.

But it didn’t.

Let me begin by saying that I’ve never actually played the games. I watched the majority of Silent Hill 2 being played, and I must say it was quite frightening. In particular, the boss named Pyramid Head scared anyone with two eyes into crying like a baby, for the very reason that it wasn’t as slow as the rest of the zombie-type creatures in the game. While the game wasn’t worthy of any Game of the Year awards, it was a master of portraying atmospheric creepiness and using it to scare you. The key word here is scare… that is what we were all hoping for from Silent Hill the movie.

The film starts off portraying Rose ( Jodelle Ferland ), who has sleepwalked out of her bed and into the night. When Rose finally finds her, Sharon is slowly chanting the words, “Silent Hill”. The movie gives you the impression that this isn’t the first time such a thing has happened. The next morning, Rose tells Sharon about what she does at night, and that they are going to a trip to Silent Hill in order to find out what is wrong with her. A few scenes later, Rose crashes the family jeep right in front of the sign welcoming her to Silent Hill, and awakens only to see that her daughter is missing…

The rest of the movie, for about an hour, is just gratuitous violent and horror when Rose chases around a girl that looks like Sharon. One key thing to note here is that the setting of Silent Hill is masterfully captured. In Silent Hill 2, some of the places you go are the Grand Hotel and the bowling alley, both of which are featured in wonderful detail in the movie. Every time a town siren goes off, the entire town transforms, as everything goes dark, the walls crack, and strange monsters appear. From the ripped wallpaper to the monsters themselves, players of the game will recognize everything. Pyramid Head himself is also well created. However, the fact that the siren is there to alert you before every potentially scary image, and the fact that the camera doesn’t spook you (you see the monsters well before Rose does), leads to the unscariness of this movie. Now, for those of you that are scared by gore and frightening settings alone, you will probably be scared nonetheless, but don’t expect many times where you are going to jump when something appears out from behind the corner.

Music in this movie is very well implemented. I think the soundtrack adds to the atmosphere and mood of scenes very well, building suspense for a scary moment. If only the director gave you those scary moments, this might be a worthy scary movie.

Unfortunately, aside from the wonderful music and setting, this movie doesn’t have much else going for it. Rose’s husband, Chris ( Sean Bean ), is looking for Rose and Sharon, as well as details on Silent Hill’s past throughout the whole movie. The minor story bits that are gained from him are essentially useless, and it seems like he is just there to break from the intense horror of the rest of the movie. On the topic of story, this movie definitely has one. However, it is not elaborated enough to give you any sense of what is going on. There is a particular point in the movie (about thirty minutes before the end), where the film just starts throwing story at you. It is as if the writer forgot he needed a story until that point. I wouldn’t have minded it if they gave you enough, but they most certainly do not. You will undoubtedly be scratching your head at the gory climax of the movie, and the ending will make your headache even worse. The story that is there is definitely intriguing, but that makes it all the more disappointing when you never get enough to fully understand everything. There are parts that are well-communicated, but there are gaps that never get filled in. I originally thought my misunderstanding was attributed to not playing all the games, but a friend of mine played all four and still didn’t understand the movie any more than I did.

(EDIT: I talked to a few more people who played the game, and it seems that they did understand the movie’s story. They told me that the story was very much like the original game [remember I watched Silent Hill 2 being played, so I knew nothing of the first one], and with some common sense you could piece the plot together. They explained it to me and I can now say that I understand the movie to a certain degree. But this doesn’t change my review: the average movie goer should not have to research a movie just to understand it!)

There are also a few other gripes I have of the movie. First of all, which sort of goes hand-in-hand with what I already discussed, is the fact that Pyramid Head is not scary at all. In the game, he was probably the most scary thing ever to be put into a video game. Chasing after you in the Grand Hotel in Silent Hill 2, Pyramid Head made you wish you wore diapers. In the movie, he was extremely disappointing. Not only did he not scare you, he seemed severely crippled as opposed to his quick-moving videogame counterpart. Secondly, the creatures seemed to “dissolve away” at all the right times. Rose didn’t even get a scratch on her, aside from the initial crash of her Jeep in the beginning of the movie. She was covered in the blood of others, but it just seemed like she never got properly attacked by the many monsters in the movie. I mentioned that the siren of the town made all the monsters appear. Well, they all disappeared just before killing Rose, it seemed. I’m not saying she should have been killed, but in most good scary movies, the main character takes a beating, and it adds to the reality of the horific situation.

The movie undoubtedly had a high production value. The sets were well-detailed, and the special effects of the monsters and atmosphere was very convincing. However, the story was severely useless and the movie was not scary at all. I would have much preferred if Pyramid Head was as scary as he was in the game. I would not recommend this movie to anyone, as it has nothing except visuals going for it.

(EDIT: After consideration and watching the movie a second time [not in the theatre this time around], I decided to give two scores below. The first is the original score, which I will call the mainstream score. This is the score that any average person going to see this movie should consider. The second, however, is the hardcore score. This is for people that either played the original Silent Hill video game, are highly intelligent, or are willing to do some research on the internet either before or after watching the movie. I did the said research, and it made me realize how ingenious the plot was. I just had to give it credit in the form of this hardcore score. The story, I now consider, to be perfect; however, this does not help the fact that the movie isn’t scary and Pyramid Head is under-done, in my opinion.)